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Best of 7 | Rocket Raccoon goes solo, ComicsPRO buzz, Jellaby returns and more

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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.

And what a week it was, as we learned about a new Rocket Raccoon series by Skottie Young, Paul Levitz getting a new gig at BOOM!, the return of Jellaby and more. So let’s get to it …

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‘Good comics and bad comics': Eric Stephenson speaks on comics’ future

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To say Eric Stephenson’s speech on Friday to the ComicsPRO crowd is a must read is an understatement.

He deviated from the norm and rather than speak on behalf of Image, he spoke to the retailers about their business and their future prospects for success in an ever-changing industry landscape as well as on the heels of news like the end of Diamond Digital.

There are several quotable moments from the speech, but the one I really zeroed in on was (coming out of Stephenson’s point that he wanted to help make the retailers’ stores stronger) this portion:

One of the first things we need to do is stop looking at the comics market as the ‘big two’ or the ‘big three.’

There are only two kinds of comics that matter: good comics and bad comics.

Everything else should be irrelevant.

You need to go read the speech, as in its entirety it conveys eloquently something a lot of retailers need to hear. The question is how much they will listen to him.

Some were shocked when Bergen Comics announced they would no longer be racking DC and Marvel comics. Reading Stephenson’s speech, however, I wonder if it will be the first of many stores to do that.

For the sake of retailers’ collective long-term success, I hope this speech strikes a chord with folks along the lines of that time Frank Miller tore apart Wizard and threw it in the trash.

Longtime readers know how much I love superhero comics. While I still want to read and enjoy them, I am also OK with the prospect of my consumerism being joined by a bunch more people enjoying good comics.

Good superhero comics can exist in the market alongside other genres of comics that expand the consumer base.

We need to get to that point. I hope the industry can. It would be a trend that would benefit consumers and the industry equally. More good comics is never a bad thing, particularly if it allows a struggling retailer to grow. (Tim O’Shea)

Paul Levitz joins BOOM! Studios’ Board of Directors

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Also coming out of ComicsPRO were several announcements from BOOM! Studios, from a new Big Trouble in Little China series by Eric Powell to the appointment of industry veteran Paul Levitz to their board. Levitz has served in a variety of editorial and executive roles at DC, including seven years as president from 2002 to 2009, in addition to writing comics like Legion of Super-Heroes and World’s Finest.

“The comics medium has broken out of its boundaries in America. I’ve been involved with comics as a fan and a professional in so many different jobs for about 45 years now, almost,” Levitz told ABC News. “I don’t think there’s any period in comics that has been as creatively fertile as we are now.”

BOOM! has been on the rise for awhile, and adding someone like Levitz will no doubt only help continue that trajectory. (JK Parkin)

The return of Jellaby

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Kean Soo’s Jellaby is a charming graphic novel about a girl and a monster. Soo is a talented creator and part of the group who contributed to the Flight anthologies, and Jellaby was first published by Hyperion in 2008, part of a wave of children’s graphic novels that were picked up by the larger publishers at that time. Unfortunately, it was out of print by 2010; as Heidi MacDonald remarked last summer, “It was emblematic of what happened to many of the cartoonists signed up by big book houses in the early days of the graphic novel gold rush: the books were misunderstood, the P&L was all on the losing side, and books got dropped and ignored left and right.”

The traditional children’s publishers have been doing a better job, though–Scholastic has shepherded Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Drama to extended stays on the New York Times Graphic Books Best-Seller list–so it’s good news that Capstone, which focuses on the educational side but also sells to the wider market, has picked up the first volume of Jellaby, with a handsome new cover and a Q&A with the author in the back. At the very least, this means kids will be finding Jellaby in their school library, and hopefully it will pop up in bookstores and comic shops as well; it’s listed in Diamond Previews. (Brigid Alverson)

Skottie Young to blast Rocket Raccoon to new heights

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I don’t think I could imagine a better fit for a Rocket Raccoon solo title right now than Skottie Young. Fresh off Marvel’s kid-friendly, award-winning Oz titles, Young’s fun and energetic art style will mesh perfectly with the story of a sentient, armed-to-the-teeth raccoon from space.

“We’re definitely going to play around with his scoundrel side,” Young told CBR. “We’ll get him away from the Guardians and he’ll have some solo adventures. So we’ll definitely see that side, but we’ll weave in and out of there as we look at other aspects of his character. We’ll see things like what it’s like to be the last of your kind left in the galaxy, but mostly this is a book about a striped-tailed, loud mouth raccoon with big guns.”

Created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen back in the 1970s, Rocket Raccoon became a marquee player in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Guardians of the Galaxy run, and he continues to crack wise in the book’s current run. And, of course, he’s set for his big-screen debut this summer, voiced by Bradley Cooper. No doubt lots of toys and games and action figures and stuffed animals are in his future, so why not his own comic? (JK Parkin)

Vertical puts the spotlight on josei manga

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Vertical‘s release of the manga Insufficient Direction, Moyoco Anno’s humorous account of domestic life with her husband, anime director Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion), is their third release of a significant josei manga in recent months.

Josei manga, which are aimed at women in their 20s (and older), have traditionally not fared well in the American market, but Vertical’s picks are compelling enough in their own right that they should appeal to readers outside traditional manga circles. Helter Skelter is the story of a model who goes to extreme lengths to keep her looks, and the industry that shelters and enables her while simultaneously destroying her; it’s a great critique of modern notions of beauty and the industry behind them. Pink is a black comedy about a working woman with some complicated family relationships who moonlights as a prostitute so she can afford to buy food for her pet crocodile. Both these manga are complete in a single volume and drawn in a loose, sketchy style that is far from what most people think manga looks like.

Anno’s book, which is also a one-shot, is a more straightforwardly funny book about married life between two serious nerds. As a reader who gets tired of comics about people punching each other all the time, I’m delighted to see this sort of smart, funny, mature work making it to the American market, and I hope it will catch on with men and women alike. (Brigid Alverson)

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